© 2021 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

The View From Pluto: Ohio State Greats' Lawsuit Should Be A First, Not A Last

Ohio State Honda banner

One of the most beloved players in Ohio State history is suing the university in a case that could set a precedent in college football. At issue is whether Ohio State should be able to use current and former players’ names and images for profit without consent.

WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says the lawsuit has been filed by highly respected and popular former player Chris Spielman and has the support of Archie Griffin:

Pluto says the lawsuit carries extra weight because it comes from a former player who has found success beyond football, is not disenchanted with Ohio State, and is not looking for money.

In fact, Pluto says, "Spielman has said whatever he wins in this case he’s going to donate it back to the athletic department."

"When these guys from the big school, who love Ohio State, stand up and say, 'This is wrong,' Ohio State better listen."

"When they speak, even if it’s in a whisper, it sounds like it comes from a megaphone. When they pull out a megaphone -- like they have here -- everybody is going to listen," Pluto says. 

The case
Spielman is suing Ohio State over the university using his images for profit without consent. Pluto says it's not about pictures used in football media guides, history books or on the walls of the locker room. It's an issue when it appears with corporate sponsorship, like banners at Ohio Stadium that featured Spielman and Griffin with Honda underneath.

"They have no control over what corporate sponsor gets hooked up to their picture," Pluto says. "Chris Spielman, for example, maybe wouldn’t want his picture used in a beer, tobacco or gentleman’s club ad."

The colleges 'are raking in so much cash because they're selling everything. And now they're selling their history to Honda.'

A bigger problem
Pluto says the lawsuit underscores a bigger problem with big-time college football.

"The top 30 programs, like Ohio State and Nebraska, it’s pro football. That’s really what they’re doing. They should have their own rules. They are raking in so much cash because they’re selling everything. And now they’re selling their history to Honda."

Pluto says if college football ran like the pros, the lawsuit wouldn't be necessary.

"The NFL, NBA and MLB have licensing agreements with the players' unions for the rights to use the images."

College football doesn’t have unions for athletes. There was a failed attempt by Northwestern players to unionize in 2015.

In favor of the lawsuit
Pluto says he thinks Speilman is making the right move and will be heard.  

"When these guys from the big school, who love Ohio State, stand up and say, 'This is wrong,' Ohio State better listen. And I hope other players at other schools stand up and do the exact same thing. And if these schools are smart, they’ll just stop it."

Terry Pluto talks about why LeBron James is grumpy